Rick Adelman has been saying for weeks that his team must put a run together and separate themselves from other playoff contenders, like Golden State has done here in the season's opening six weeks.

Maybe they're starting to do that now they own a three-game winning streak and have won five of their last six and six of their last eight after Friday's 113-102 victory at New Orleans.

But you didn't find a lot of joy in the locker room after the game, not after Kevin Love left the game with less than 80 seconds remaining and went directly to the locker room after injuring that right shooting hand again.

X-rays taken at the arena revealed his thumb was bruised, not broken, but Love was really dejected after the game and in pain as well with a hand that already has been bothering him.

So just when Ricky Rubio is ready to return Saturday night against Dallas, Love, judging by the swelling, very well might miss the big return.

Love followed Wednesday's 3-for-17 shooting night by going 4 for 18.

That's 20-percent shooting since that Yahoo!Sports story came out Tuesday, if you're keeping score at home.

And they won again because of contributions from elsewhere:

* Nikola Pekovic is running the floor like that hurting ankle never bothered him just a week ago. He scored a career-high 31 points tonight, many of them from running the floor. (And wait until Ricky gets back, right?)

Trade him for Pau Gasol?

"In my opinion, don't get me wrong, I think he's the best of the big men in the West right now," Andrei Kirilenko said. "He's dominating on the inside. A pure big man being a great presence on the inside, making free throws. It's a key points for the big man: If they foul you, you punish. He's playing great inside. I like that. I think we have a very good center."

* Kirilenko continues to be the team's MVP so far, a do-it-everything kind of guy who did a lot of it again Friday with a 21-point, 11-rebound night in which he beat the Hornets' young wing players on back-door baseline cuts again and again.

He got the basket often seemingly at will and along with big Pek, was one of the big reasons the Wolves clobbered the Hornets 70-42 in points in the paint.

Rick Adelman calls him "the glue" in the game story from Friday night.

"He really is," Adelman said.

An advance scout from another NBA team watching courtside called the Wolves a mini-version of the San Antonio Spurs because of how they execute their offense and Kirilenko is a big part of that.

* So is Alexey Shved, who made his first NBA start, played nearly 35 minutes and had a 13-point, 8-assist night.

The Wolves had 29 assists, one off their season high, and Shved, Luke Ridnour (10) and J.J. Barea (5) had 23 of those and just four turnovers between the three of them.

"He's good," Kirilenko said. "I don't have a problem with Lexey in the starting lineup, off the bench. He's that kind of player who can be very valuable on the floor no matter what."

* Josh Howard came back after missing Wednesday's game because he fell ill, but played just seven minutes before he hyperextended his knee in the second quarter and was done for the night.

The Wolves flew back to the Twin Cities after the game and play Dallas Saturday night.

There's no shootaround because the Wolves never shoot the morning after a game, but you can bet management, medical personnel and Rubio will meet late morning or early afternoon to make the final decision on whether he plays.

Maybe he will, and maybe Love won't.

And so it goes...

"We need him, like we need Ricky," Kirilenko said of Love. "We can play without them, but it's a different ballgame when we play with him."

Alas, I will miss Rubio's return, if indeed it does happen Saturday.

Six weeks ago, I looked pretty smart deciding to go directly to Florida after tonight's game rather than fly home 1,000 miles Saturday and head right back South to Orlando on Sunday.

Right now?

Not so much, but the game will be in Kent Youngblood's capable hands and columnist Chip Scoggins will be there as well.

Kent's got you covered on the blog tomorrow. I'll be back from Orlando and Miami to start a week in which the Wolves head into Christmas with three BIG marquee games against the Heat, Oklahoma City and the surging New York Knicks.

Mamba out.


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Shved to start in New Orleans, Lee out indefinitely

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Rubio to return, Love will not play